Matthew Avery Sutton is the Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Washington State University. He is the author of Double Crossed: The Missionaries Who Spied for the United States During the Second World War (2019), American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism (2014), Jerry Falwell and the Rise of the Religious Right: A Brief History with Documents (2012), and Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (2007). His articles have appeared in diverse publications, ranging from the Journal of American History to the New York Times, and he has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the U.S. Fulbright Commission, and the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation. In 2016, he was appointed a Guggenheim Fellow.
This talk focuses on the rise of a colorful and charismatic group of radical Protestants and their impact on American politics across the early 20th century. Sutton explores how this group felt the United States was besieged by Satanic forces—like secularism, family breakdown and government encroachment—and took to the pulpit and airwaves to explain how prophecies of Biblical end times and an imminent apocalypse made sense of a ravaged modern world. By the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan and conservative Republicans appropriated these evangelical ideas, challenging the pragmatic tradition of governance through compromise and consensus. In the 2016 election, no group supported President Trump more enthusiastically than white evangelicals. Sutton’s talk helps explain why.